The Pop Art movement began during the 1950s and 60s in Britain and America evolving around the products of the mass media. The artwork derived from popular culture became one of the United States’ major artistic movements of the 20th century.
The artwork, based on packaging, television, advertising, films and even comic books helped to break down the long held barriers between high art and mass culture. Shortly after World War II, America was fast becoming a culture of commercial manipulation, exhibitionism and instant success. These traits made it a perfect target for artists looking to poke fun at the serious nature of the art world while at the same time holding a mirror up to society as they saw it.
Whereas in Britain the pop artists took a more romantic approach, in America the results were often times more brash; like the giant binoculars and shuttlecocks of Claes Oldenburg. Originally considered a counterattack on Abstract Expressionism, the pop art movement usurped the French based Dada movement it terms of its battle against highbrow art and has never looked back.
Like Dada before it, the pop art movement used common items as its subject matter and the artists preferred commercial methods of production thus allowing unlimited reproductions of the art. As the age of commercial uniformity closed in, pop art spread out creating such super stars as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein to name but a few.
Pop art combines its mass produced, low cost, expendable, shiny nature to encourage the big money and bright lights to come calling. Some question if pop art is a serious comment on the contemporary condition or simply a “joke without humour.” Traditional art critics may try to tell you what is and isn’t popular art, but in the end the decision is entirely yours.
The accessibility of pop art makes almost everyone with an urge to create a pop artist. And although pop art has long since spawned many different sub categories and new and unusual mediums; it all comes back to art for, of and by the masses. With every generation, America seems to become more youth oriented almost certainly guaranteeing the future of pop art and it’s witty, young, sexy, gimmicky works. The big business that is pop art is strengthened by the ongoing homogenization of America and the blurring of the lines between art, popular culture and commercialism.
Although many pop artists still display their works in galleries, pop art can arguably be found inside your Happy Meal from McDonalds. Popular culture and the art that represents it grows at an exponential rate each year just like most aspects of life on this earth. So what is pop art and where is it going? well, in the words of one art critic, “I don’t know art, but I know what I like and I like this.”